noun, plural he·red·i·ties. Biology.

the transmission of genetic characters from parents to offspring: it is dependent upon the segregation and recombination of genes during meiosis and fertilization and results in the genesis of a new individual similar to others of its kind but exhibiting certain variations resulting from the particular mix of genes and their interactions with the environment.
the genetic characters so transmitted.

Compare congenital.

Origin of heredity

1530–40; < Middle French heredite < Latin hērēditāt- (stem of hērēditās) inheritance, equivalent to hērēd- (stem of hērēs) heir + -itāt- -ity Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for heredity

Contemporary Examples of heredity

  • Not surprisingly, then, this is a book about heredity, about fathers and sons and their awkward relationships.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Favorite Historical Novels

    Stella Tillyard

    November 9, 2011

  • A frequently touching domestic drama about an academic Chicago family, it mulls Big Themes: war, faith, heredity.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Squid and the Whale of a Book

    Taylor Antrim

    June 14, 2009

Historical Examples of heredity

  • By heredity and discipline all minds are shaped to this great hour.

    Ballads of a Bohemian

    Robert W. Service

  • We see that the heredity relation is an extremely complex affair.

    The Truth About Woman

    C. Gasquoine Hartley

  • I agree that a man cannot for long conceal his true nature; we are what we are by heredity.

  • Questions of heredity, procreation and education will be dealt with calmly and freely.

  • He was one of those frequent cases which give the lie to the laws of heredity.

British Dictionary definitions for heredity


noun plural -ties

the transmission from one generation to another of genetic factors that determine individual characteristics: responsible for the resemblances between parents and offspring
the sum total of the inherited factors or their characteristics in an organism

Word Origin for heredity

C16: from Old French heredite, from Latin hērēditās inheritance; see heir
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for heredity

1530s, from Middle French hérédité (12c.), from Latin hereditatem (nominative hereditas) "heirship, inheritance, condition of being an heir," from heres (genitive heredis) "heir, heiress," from PIE root *ghe- "to be empty, left behind" (cf. Greek khera "widow"). Legal sense of "inheritable quality or character" first recorded 1784; the modern biological sense seems to be found first in 1863, introduced by Herbert Spencer.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for heredity




The genetic transmission of characteristics from parent to offspring.
One's genetic constitution.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for heredity



The passage of biological traits or characteristics from parents to offspring through the inheritance of genes.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for heredity


The passing of characteristics from parents to children. (See genetics.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.